Mortified traces two pivotal years in the life of Taylor Fry, an eccentric 11-year-old with an overheated imagination. Embarrassed by her unpredictable family, Taylor spends her days dreaming of escape ... to live with Nicole Kidman, or to train as a lama in the Himalayas, even to volunteer to become the first child astronaut to travel to outer space. With perennial help from her best friend, Hector, Taylor gradually manages to navigate her way through the treacherous pre-teen years and learn to accept who she really is.
Mortified's creator Angela Webber is writing ten of the twenty-six episodes. I conducted a phone interview with Angela on 27 September 2005 and then followed up with email questions to clarify points she had raised. My first question was: where did the idea for the series come from? Even though Angela was in Sydney and I was in Melbourne, I could almost see her smile and I could certainly hear it in her voice as she remembered the moment. She said that she had often been asked this question, and the thought of it still made her laugh.
It was about five years ago and my daughter Lily was ten. I don't know what we were doing that day, but the moment I remember clearly is when she put on a CD and began dancing to it. I can't even tell you what the CD was or what the song was. I got up and started dancing with her. I'm sure I had danced with her before. But it was the look on her face that I remember. That was the moment. Something had changed in Lily. Her mother was dancing and she was horrified!
Angela says she remembers laughing when she saw that look horror on her daughter's face.
I realized that I had become the embarrassing mother. In that moment, all these feelings from my own childhood came back to me and I remembered what my parents did that made me embarrassed. I had forgotten about those feelings. I suddenly remembered how shocking it was to be embarrassed by your parents ... even by the little things they did, that probably no-one else ever noticed. For instance, when I was about eleven, I thought my Mum had a really loud laugh. I would quietly die whenever she burst into laughter. Actually, with hindsight, I don't think anyone else ever noticed. And even if they did, they couldn't have cared less. What they probably thought was that she was having a really good time. But for years I shrank every time she was amused.
While it was the reaction from her daughter and the expression on her face that was the catalyst for the series, Angela is keen to point out to me that Mortified is not a series about her family. It simply triggered a whole lot of memories, which, in turn, were used as a springboard to create the series.
I began to see that this was an important and really interesting developmental stage. That feeling of awkwardness. You know your parents are embarrassing you, but you're not old enough to have broken away from them. At that age, I remember thinking that there is a perfect family out there somewhere, who do everything perfectly and if you were in that family, you wouldn't be embarrassed by your parents. The one thing you know for sure is that the perfect family is not yours. It's only when you get older you realize that the perfect family doesn't exist.
I remember very well, myself, always thinking that the grass was greener somewhere else. Taylor thinks that. She's embarrassed by her parents, but they are very loving parents. Her parents are free-spirited, which is what embarrasses Taylor, but Taylor's growth through the series is to realize that she too, is similar to her parents and is just as free-spirited.
Angela says she wanted to write about what it's like to be eleven:
It's such a beautiful age. Eleven-year-olds still have their childhood, but yet you can see them breaking away and becoming their own person. They are full of conflict. It's such an in-between time. You're not locked into having to be groovy, you're still a child but you can see where you are headed. …